If you are injured in an accident, what you never expect to happen is to be blamed for causing your own injuries. Sadly, that is exactly that what the at-fault party and their insurance company will likely do. They will say that you weren’t safe enough or didn’t take enough precautions to prevent what happened and will try to use that to either deny your claim or pay you less than you may deserve. In North Carolina, the term they use is “contributory negligence,” and for insurance companies, that is one of their strongest defenses.
What is contributory negligence?
Contributory negligence means the person who was injured either did something that helped cause the accident or failed to do something that could have helped prevent the accident. The law refers to that as “ordinary care", meaning what would an ordinary person reasonably do in those circumstances. If your actions are considered to be out-of-the-ordinary or unreasonable, a jury could decide that you shouldn’t recover for your injury.
What if i am only A little to blame?
Unfortunately, the law states that if an injured person is even 1% at-fault for their injury, a jury could decide that they shouldn’t recover anything for their injury. For example, if you are driving on the Interstate and are cut off by another driver who did not see you, you will likely be able to establish that the other driver was at-fault. However, if the other driver proves that you were traveling 80 mph when the speed limit was 70 mph, he may be able to argue that your speeding contributed to the accident. If proven, you may not be entitled to any damages for the accident.
When Does Contributory negligence affect my case?
Even if you’re worried that you might be at-fault in your case doesn’t mean you are unable to recover any damages for your injuries. Insurance companies often threatened or attempt to deny claims on the grounds that the injured person was at-fault. It is important to not believe what their insurance company may tell you about the value or worth of your claim. When you have been injured in an accident it is important to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can present you with your legal options and the strengths and weaknesses of your case.